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Florida to reopen under 'Phase 1' plan, Gov. Ron DeSantis says

Tallahassee Democrat logoTallahassee Democrat 4/28/2020 Zac Anderson, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday during a trip to the White House that he will make an announcement tomorrow about “Phase 1” of his reopening plan for Florida.

DeSantis indicated he will proceed cautiously.

“I think for Florida, going from where we are now to Phase 1 is not a very big leap,” DeSantis said, adding it will be a “small step.”

“We’re gonna approach it in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way and I think that’s what most of the folks throughout the state are looking for,” DeSantis said as he sat next to President Donald Trump.

Ron DeSantis wearing a suit and tie: Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference in the Historic Capitol to share update on coronavirus in Florida as well as announce that schools with continue distance learning for the remainder of the school year, Saturday, April 18, 2020. © Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat Gov. Ron DeSantis holds a press conference in the Historic Capitol to share update on coronavirus in Florida as well as announce that schools with continue distance learning for the remainder of the school year, Saturday, April 18, 2020.

DeSantis imposed a lockdown in early April that ordered Floridians to stay home unless they are obtaining or providing essential services or conducting essential activities. The lockdown expires on Friday.

More: Coronavirus Florida: Gov. DeSantis sees 'light at the end of the tunnel'

DeSantis has talked about wanting to reopen the state and get people back to work. He convened the Re-Open Florida Task Force to give him advice on how to reopen safely.

Public health experts say Florida has successfully reined in the coronavirus outbreak and is ready to start slowly reopening if certain public health measures are in place to keep the virus from spreading again, such as widespread testing and a large team of contact tracers who can track down individuals who may have been exposed.

“Things are promising, the curve is clearly bent down,” Dr. Glenn Morris, the director of the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, said Monday. “We’ve got it under control. Now the question is how do we keep it under control.”

More: Coronavirus in Florida: Total cases close to 33,000 as death toll surpasses 1,100

Morris said he worries that Florida is not yet doing enough testing and contact tracing to keep the virus in check.

“My concern at the moment is the adequacy of testing capacity within the state and the ability to really actually monitor what’s going on,” Morris said.

Appearing at a news conference with DeSantis in Tampa Monday, USF Health Senior Vice President Dr. Charles Lockwood also said there needs to be much more testing and contact tracing.

More: Coronavirus pandemic accentuates health disparities

Lockwood said Florida should be testing about 150 people daily for every 100,000 residents, or about 31,800 people every day in a state of 21.2 million.

The Florida Department of Health reported receiving test results for 10,261 people Sunday and 19,342 Saturday. The largest number of test results DOH received in a single day was 21,282 on April 23.

DeSantis said Tuesday that Florida has more testing capacity than currently is being utilized, implying that the problem - at least in part - is not a lack of resources but the ability to get enough people to come in for testing at the current locations.

The governor said he is working to make testing more convenient and get it to underserved areas.

“The key is gonna be finding pockets that maybe we’re not testing as much,” DeSantis said.

But the public messaging and protocols around testing also may be a factor in how much testing is being done.

Only in the last few days have public health officials started encouraging people who do not have symptoms to come in for testing, which will significantly broaden the population of people tested and help identify individuals who have the virus but are not symptomatic.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Florida to reopen under 'Phase 1' plan, Gov. Ron DeSantis says

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